miércoles, junio 19, 2013

Operatic contrasts live and filmed

            In recent weeks the enormous contrasts of the operatic world were appreciated both live and filmed. It would be hard to imagine more dissimilar pieces than Leoncavallo´s "I Pagliacci", Marcelo Delgado´s "Luzazul" and Händel´s "Giulio Cesare in Egitto". The first was seen at the Coliseo, the second at the CETC (Centro de Experimentación del Teatro Colón) and the third was the final session of the Met Opera´s direct transmissions  presented by the Fundación Beethoven at the Teatro El Nacional.

            "I Pagliacci" was one of two performances of emblematic Italian operas (the other will be Verdi´s "Il Trovatore") in which the Italian Consulate joins forces with our National Culture Secretariat in presentations that are part of both the "Italian Summer in Buenos Aires" (a panoply of cultural events that includes also popular singers and cinema cycles, among other things) and of the Federal Plan of Opera and Dance. Thus, this "Pagliacci" will also be presented in Corrientes and Misiones with the same staging and soloists but with local orchestras and choirs. It is certainly a good idea, initiated two years ago.

            As "Pagliacci" is often offered here, I will only repeat that I find a fascinating piece, the best of "verismo" and a shining example of theatre within the theatre. Carlos Palacios in the chief of the Federal Plan, an experienced producer with good professional qualities. However, he has a misguided concept of this opera  similar to what was seen years ago at the Argentino of La Plata: he mixes the circus with the four players of the "commedia dell´arte". And the circus has nothing to to with this opera, centered on a small ambulating company that goes  from small town to small town to show their "commedia dell´arte"-derived humoristic sketches. Maybe the title of the opera disconcerts Palacios, for they do have clownish makeup ("la faccia in farina") in the libretto (also by Leoncavallo). But the nine circus people were distracting, especially in Nedda´s aria. Otherwise the production was alright, the drama clearly exposed.

            There were attractive costume designs by Stella Maris Müller (Nedda´s gowns especially) and the stage designs by Marcelo Fernández and Palacios were adequate, as was the lighting by Eduardo Sivori.  

            The Canio was imported, the others were chosen among our best artists. Canio is a feared dramatic role, associated with such singers as Caruso, Vickers and Domingo. The fortyish Francesco Anile (debut) is a Calabrian artist with a long Italian career and he is quite representative of a hallowed traditional syle in bearing and in dramatic interpretation. His voice is powerful  and with good metal both in the high range and the center; he is a bit weak in the low tones, where the ideal Canio should sound baritonal.

            The veteran Mónica Ferracani still sounds and looks splendid. Fabián Veloz is our best young baritone, and his acting was cunning as Tonio. Santiago Bürgi was a good Beppe and Ernesto Bauer a correct Silvio. The ad-hoc Choir under Miguel Pesce and the Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires led by Carlos Calleja were positive aspects of this presentation.

            For some years now the CETC has lost the focus it had in the years when its director was Gerardo Gandini. The current Director is Miguel Galperin. He has programmed a huge amount of shows and concerts this year, but many seem outside the scope of the CETC. I  have long thought that the accent on experimentation is a bad one, that it should be called the XX-XXI Center: the best chamber operatic and dance works of those centuries rather than experiments that so often come to nothing.  There´s certainly plenty to choose and most of it is unknown here.  

            Among the better things of recent months I would put "Luzazul", music by Marcelo Delgado and text by Emilio García Wehbi (premiere).  Delgado is a serious and valuable avantgarde composer long associated with the CETC; I particularly liked his Freudian "Anna O." (2004). "Luzazul" is stark and intimate. He says: " One singer and two actresses that sing interpret the three characters (one, the same)". Introduction, three brief acts and an epilogue. And García Wehbi, of vast theatrical trajectory, tells us that the libretto´s inspiration comes from Sylvia Plath´s "Three women" ( poet Plath committed suicide), where she expresses "her phantoms about maternity and femininity" (she had two children).

            The piece is sad, melancholy, and it culminates in a long anguished monologue of the singing voice, done here with overwhelming intensity by Graciela Oddone. The actresses María Inés Aldaburu and Maricel Álvarez were in the picture. Of course, García Wehbi was his own producer;  Delgado conducted a small varied group of just five players.

            I will be brief about "Giulio Cesare in Egitto", Händel´s masterpiece given whole (four hours). Musically it was magnificent: singers like Natalie Dessay (Cleopatra), Alice Coote (Sesto), Patricia Bardon (Cornelia) and Guido Loconsolo (Achilles) were of the highest level. The countertenors were a bit lower: David Daniels (Giulio Cesare) in purely vocal terms, Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo) splendid technically but over the top in his acting. The Met orchestra under Harry Bicket was perfect.

            However,  David McVicar´s production (from Glyndebourne) converted "Giulio Cesare" into a camp vaudeville, fun in its way, but insulting to the original in multiple ways. A pity, for he knows how to direct actors; alas, he has no confidence in the strength of the opera he is staging. 

For Buenos Aires Herald

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